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What is WordPress’ Competition Up To?

I stumbled upon Geek News Central’s post, “Where the heck is Six Apart on Movable Type Development”, and it got me curious, too.

I have been a dedicated Movable Type fan for 4 years, the application continues to do cool stuff that other applications cannot, but that gap is closing very quickly. As evident in this post, but the real issue is this, we have heard virtual silence out of the folks at Six Apart. The only time they make an announcement is when they have signed some big partnership.

We don’t hear anything directed at their base, and guess what they are going to start loosing us if they don’t get busy and star adding some features that don’t require a developer to integrate them.

A whine like this comes at software programs and tools, including WordPress, all the time, so there isn’t anything special about this. What caught my attention was the first comment from Jay Allen, Product Manager of Six Apart – Professional Products Group.

The reason that you’ve heard less from us since the Yahoo Small Business version of Movable Type was released (3 months ago including a holiday break) is that we’re nearing the end of the development cycle on two different new versions: Movable Type 3.3 and Movable Type Enterprise.

In order to get those versions into your hands as soon as possible, we’re all running far over capacity (remember, we’re a small team) and have been for some time now. As such, our schedules haven’t allowed for much blogging or attending conferences like SxSW or eTech (which both Anil and I have had to miss for the first time in years). That said, as we get closer, you can bet that we’ll be talking more.

We’ve been working on a number of things (aside from the MT code) behind the scenes including massive documentation improvements, a business blogging section of our site and a slew of plugins (on our personal time) all of which make up the entire product of Movable Type. These things will pay off when they’re all public, but in the meantime we are always looking at ways to do a better job of keeping you all apprised of our progress while also still being efficient. I’d love to hear some suggestions about what you’d like to hear when we’re in the middle of a cycle.

So we have a hint at what the competition is up to.

And this begs the question: How transparent and public should a blogging tool be about their activities?

Honestly, this is a good question to ask. I’ve heard a lot of complaints about WordPress not being more open about this and that, and people not getting the news and information, when in fact, if you look at the past year or two history, a very short business life, you will see that while there are things going on behind the scenes, WordPress has been really open. WordPress has also rarely taken advantage of the “big tease factor”. The Big Tease Factor is the method used by many to over promote something before there is anything ready to promote, let alone use. This kind of hype, I think, can equally hurt as well as help a product. They’ve used it, for sure, but not constantly.

Really, we don’t need to know everything, and probably shouldn’t. Most of the day to day operations and troubleshooting are boring in the long run. I think that the developers of WordPress have been very open, if more than curt about it occasionally. When there has been a issue, the response has been fairly fast. There is also a huge volunteer support base, which makes it easier to spread the news, and also spread rumors, unfortunately.

I feel the same way about Mozilla. I know what I need to know that keeps me interested enough to follow the news, but if there isn’t anything happening I need to know about, don’t bother me with hype. I like an even handled PR campaign.

But what about you? How open should WordPress (or another company) be about their product development and company actions? How much information should we, the users, need to know before we start looking around at the competition? What information do you want to know, and how often should you be informed? What do you think?

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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen


  1. Posted March 13, 2006 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

    WordPress development is open to anyone willing to look at tickets or repository checkins or follow the mailing lists. We don’t say much in more public venues to avoid the Big Tease. We’d rather under hype and over deliver. I do occasionally post a Commit Digest to my personal blog to give a brief, low-key overview of what is going on with WP development.

  2. Posted March 13, 2006 at 10:50 pm | Permalink

    I didn’t exactly know where to put this reply, but ehm…

    It’s not me looking for sympathy (which is no reverse psychology!) but I wanted to let you are… you are

    A) the first ever person to comment on my blog (up nearly a day now, yay!), which feels like, for a lack of a better word, a drug. And
    B) I may have skipped sleeping, but am rather satisfied and relieved by finishing my profile.

    But truth be known, if it weren’t for that post you did on ‘who you are’ I would’ve gave up (again) and wouldn’t ‘ve been a step further…

    Plus the volume of your recources at the site is of great great value!

  3. Posted March 13, 2006 at 11:20 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the kind words.

    Please take time to read my article, How is Blogging Like Stand Up Comedy, paying close attention to the fact that blogging is its own reward, not comments, traffic, or responses. You do it because you love it, not because you get feedback. It’s a very important thing to consider.

    Still, you’ve taken a big step in opening yourself up to the world by describing something about yourself on your blog. There is still plenty of other work you can to to attract attention, but blog for the love of blogging first, getting feedback second, or even never. It will be a much more rewarding experience.

    Keep up the great work!

  4. Posted March 14, 2006 at 1:19 am | Permalink

    What Ryan said.

    The more open you are the more likely you are to get professional grade input, feature implementations, and bug fixes for free. The only reason to keep secrets is if your product is secretly weak and full of difficult to fix problems which would be truly dangerous to expose. But I’m not going to name any Redmond companies.

    I think “should” might be better qualified though. Should, to me, implies legislation is lurking in the wings. E.g.: How open should WP dev be to better serve itself.

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